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Sunday, February 27, 2022

Deadly Garage Sale 2022 * * * Stars


Doug Campbell directs Deadly Garage Sale. He's obviously a purist cause this is Lifetime Television old school, the way it was meant to be seen. Plenty of conniving, evil people manipulating average, moderately nice people. And you know someone's gonna get framed for a planned dispatching. Ah I love it when a long-running network gets back to their roots. 

Deadly Garage Sale answers the question of what if LA had a suburbia feel to it. Not the buildings or Rodeo Drive or the good old La Brea Tar Pits mind you, just a regular house and a rummaged front yard (no pun intended). Deadly Garage Sale's handle, well it makes you sort of chuckle (these Lifetime titles are so general). Look closer though because this flick is the good kind of camp, the kind of camp where the fires don't stop burning. 

The villain in Deadly Garage Sale is Trudee played by Juliana Destefano. She's young, very snippy, and quite the piece of work. It's in the smirk, the gradual off the rails intentions, and the eyes. Man, Destefano has got some real creepy eyes. She wants boodle, she wants the protagonist's house, and ultimately, she wants revenge. And come on let's face it, we need a break from Vivica trying to save the day for the millionth time (her and David DeCoteau are on holiday here, good). 

So OK, Deadly Garage Sale seems a little implausible in regards to the mother and daughter running a dozen or so garage sales (they can't have that much stuff, can they?). And yeah, the antagonist stealing $78,000 from said daughter's college fund can only go so far (that's like one year's tuition at say, Stanford). Still, Deadly Garage Sale is well-plotted, pitiless, twisty, and entertaining as all heck. I'd "tag" it as a film I'd buy. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Blacklight 2022 * * * Stars


Blacklight was released in February of this year. February (or January) at the movies is well, Neeson time. Liam Neeson that is. Blacklight supplies the type of role that is tailored to an Everyman everlast such as this dude. "My end is now". Gosh I sure hope not Liam.

Blacklight has a running time of about 104 minutes. I wanted the film to be longer for its ending felt a little hasty. It's like the line producers and the writers ran out of wiggle room (I guess it's pretty easy to ensnare the Director of the FBI). Oh well. At least Neeson gives us that scruffy smile right before the closing credits come up. He's a got a special set of skills (duh) and now his character's got OCD to boot (that's a new one). 

So yeah, Blacklight initially feels like it could roam into direct-to-video territory. Not so fast as Lee Corso would say. Blacklight's director (Mark Williams) elevates the material here. He bulks up the budget ($43 million), gives Blacklight a dramatic feel as opposed to just straight bodies in motion, and has an actor like Aidan Quinn match wits with good old Bryan Mills (we missed you Aiden!). I tell ya, Mr. Quinn is almost unrecognizable. His portrayal of Joe O'Malley in Stolen Summer (the last time I saw him in a flick) was a long long time ago.

Blacklight is a hard-nosed Neeson actioner. It's slickster apparatus as it moves at a fleet-footed clip. Liam plays Travis Block, a guy who watches over or fixes damaged FBI agents as they make their way into the field. Block carries his job with aplomb until his own superiors betray him. 

Yeah I liked what Blacklight was about and for the most part, how it was about. Despite maybe a couple of production value mishaps (the FBI office interiors sure seemed a little stark), Williams scores a minor directorial victory. He knows where to put the camera, he knows how to stage action concatenations that pop (lots of car chases, shootouts, and foot chases), and he knows how to present that Neeson butt-kicking, smarter-than-your-average bear formula (if it ain't broke, don't attempt to fix it). Blacklight leaves "the light on" for Liam Neeson to keep doing his stuff. "Good luck".   

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Small Engine Repair 2021 * 1/2 Stars


I kinda loathed 2021's Small Engine Repair. And I loathed it because it doesn't know what it really wants to be. Is it a black comedy (the wiki page entry says it is but I disagree)? Is it a hangout movie where everybody talks wicked tough (the humongous overuse of F-bombs gets old real fast)? Is it Saw (there was a clip toward the end that made me feel icky)? I don't know. It could be any one of those things. I'll just go with misguided and sad and leave it at that. 

When you watch Small Engine Repair, you feel as if you've stepped into a less artsy version of Manchester by the Sea that might've found its way onto Showtime. At the same time, you also get a Last Flag Flying vibe except that everyone is in pretty much the same location. That's the first hour and then things turn dark. Small Engine Repair has a twist in which a possible murder might be involved. Bromantic epiphany and town drunkenness turn into Robert Boyd territory (some of you may not get the reference).

Director John Pollono (also the lead and the writer) initially fashions a character study of three buddies who forever swill liquor, bicker, smoke, give each other ribs, and harbor thick East Coast accents (rehab anyone?). Then he makes well, an entirely different flick altogether (yes I'm saying it like it's a bad thing). 

So OK, you wanna see star Jon Bernthal act like Jon Bernthal for the umpteenth time? I sorta do but not really. Do you wanna see actor Shea Whigham play himself? Well I guess cause that's the only way you can see Shea Whigham. Finally, do you want to watch Pollono get his ego trip on and try to be all innovative at the same time? I didn't and will never again but it's up to you. 

Small Engine Repair gets its title because most of it takes place in a repair shop (I think it was lawn mowers). Other than that, what a crappy title that feels generic and well, VOD (that would be video on demand). The out of place and out of tone flashbacks don't help this vehicle either (har har). Boy what a heap Small Engine Repair is. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, February 17, 2022

I Want You Back 2022 * * * Stars


"I wanna break up with you". Ouch. Those six words can make a man or woman feel like not eating (I know cause I've been there). My latest review is a pic about break-ups, make-ups, attempted threesomes, and Pete Davidson cameos (ugh). Just another reason for Kanye to rage on Twitter. 

Anyway, Jason Orley has only directed two movies. However, he manages to sort of reinvent the rom-com wheel with this year's I Want You Back. Filmed in Savannah, Georgia (it's the even-keel climate and the tax breaks), "Back" sneaks up on you when you initially thought it was a flick straight out of 2002. Reese Witherspoon and J. Lo are nowhere to be found and that might be a good thing.

I Want You Back is a different kind of romantic comedy. Basically it has a little more going on upstairs. Director Orley seems to be a mild expert at weaving plot lines, forming classic rom-com deadpans at the end of a scene, and inserting coincidences when it comes to a man and a woman deploying a relationship. His "Back" is about two people who get dumped and then meet up together to scheme in order to win their exes back. That's a fairly indigenous concept.

Now did I like all the characters in I Want You Back as portrayed? Mostly. Heck, I could've done without Charlie Day acting like Charlie Day for the umpteenth time (maybe it's the high-pitched voice or the fact that he won't practice the art of self-effacing). And did I think "Back" was a little predictable? Maybe but that's okay. I mean what allurement doesn't have the soft notion of being headily par for the course. Just like death and taxes, you just know two people are eventually gonna get their romance on.

I Want You Back stars Scott Eastwood, Day (mentioned earlier), and Jenny Slate. The movie that they inhabit blurs the lines of sappiness and sentimentality but thankfully it never crosses it. If you wanna see a vehicle that comes off like a less artsy and less cerebral version of Wicker Park, then I Want You Back is your go-to. Yup, I have its "back". Natch. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, February 14, 2022

The Alpinist 2021 * * * * Stars


"When I'm in the mountains, life is so incredibly simple". Those are the words of the late Marc-Andre Leclerc. He was a fearless alpinist, a no man's land life-lover, and a spiritual crusader.

With insightful, expert interviews, breathtaking cinematography, and gnarly, wide-angled film-making from Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen, 2021's The Alpinist is a documentary that's all heart and well, all gut. "Alpinist" chronicles Leclerc and his insatiable appetite for the dangers of rock climbing. The dude didn't care about fame and he probably didn't even want to be in this film. Marc-Andre just wanted to climb and climb he did. 

Marc-Andre Leclerc died before The Alpinist ever reached the thrones of Netflix (circa 2018). And he died doing what he loved and what he knew might happen. That's the flick's twist I suppose and at the same time, it's probably the directors mournful tribute to Leclerc. It's always sad when anyone passes away but it sort of adds to "Alpinist's" richness as novel. Powerfully realized and with merit, The Alpinist is the motion picture equivalent to a car accident. You want to but just can't look away. 

Whether it's Leclerc climbing ice glaciers in the Canadian Rockies, the Torre Egger in South America, or anything in the Squamish (that's in British Columbia), you feel as if you're with him and scared-straight (he probably wasn't though). I mean I'm afraid of heights and at certain times during "Alpinist", I flinched like a mother. 

That's a paean to how well Mortimer and Rosen film this thing. It's the quiet moments they provide, the meccas of dangerous beauty, the mammoth landscapes they were forced to use, and the types of shots they yielded (master shots and POV shots I presume). I don't know how they did it and well, I might not want to know (ha). Yup, whether you are a rock climbing enthusiast or not, The Alpinist will still fulfill your cinematic "summit". I'll always just view from afar. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, February 11, 2022

In the Forest 2022 * * * Stars


In the Forest was released in January of this year. It represents the type of genre fare that makes my ears perk up. "Forest" is a backwoods horror thriller, a sort of low budget snuff fest where the helmer gets the best he can out of limited resources (basically one shooting location in Graeagle, California). "I hate the outdoors". Indeed you do.

In the Forest tops out at 83 minutes. It ends at full tilt leaving a few questions about its characters (like who they are and what their deal is). The acting by everyone involved is pretty decent though. I mean these guys look exhausted. That's probably because director Hector Barron was relentless in gauging certain performances out of his game cast (mainly the lead in Debbon Ayer).  

So yeah, we've seen this movie before (no pun intended). Yup, we've got a Texas Chainsaw/Hills Have Eyes/Deliverance situation going on here. Darned if In the Forest doesn't try to freshen up the proceedings and creep you out big time. Look out for that mutant girl persona who lies dormant in a basement. Need I say more. 

"Forest" builds tension from the opening frame. I mean why wouldn't it. A miserable family in the form of a daughter, a mother, and a grandfather is barreling down the road in an RV (sound familiar?). You just know stuff is about to get real. Said family parks their RV, their wheel gets stuck in the dirt, and an unlikable landowner wants them to leave. Insert chaos and conflict. In the Forest gives the viewer yet another reason to not wanna go camping. I hate camping anyway so my reasoning is nil and void.

S'mores and pop-up tents begot, I'll recommend In the Forest because movies like it always keep my edgy and upset (that's terror baseline 101). "Forest" is messy editing-wise but it gets the job done cause it's macabre. Its setting is well, idyllic (I dug the wide, aerial shots of tree-trunk-ed Northern Cali). If In the Forest wasn't so compact, so principally style mongered, and so loose ended, I would've praised it even more. Not so "deep forest". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Confession 2022 * * Stars


"I talk you listen, understand". Yeah we understand, you got a gun silly. Almost every persona in 2022's Confession (there are 5 of them) "talks" to no end and points a heater. It's like a play of the same name turned into a movie. In terms of entertainment, I could go either end on that kinda stuff. 

So let's get this out of the way shall we. Confession takes place in a church. And the church as old-world as it looks, is the film's only set location. That'd be great if the gaffer turned the lights on once in a while. And that'd also be great if the characters resonated with me (but they didn't). With the exception of veteran actor Colm Meaney, all the pawns came off as cliches in every thriller I can think of. 

Confession stars Stephen Moyer, Meaney, and Clare-Hope Ashitey. They respectively play an undercover cop, a priest, and I guess a bad cop. Their scenes wear you out for they "confess" and explain themselves too much. Confession at 90 minutes, is almost slowed down to a creep. There may be a twist or two in the dialogue but it all feels like it's headed nowhere. 

Confession is oddly directed by the unseasoned David Beton. David's look is dark and banal. He uses a few close-ups, a ton of medium shots, and his staging of action (what little action there is) is stodgy. Beton decides to end Confession with a Mexican standoff (because no one seems to want to leave that darn house of worship). He doesn't even show said standoff so you the viewer are left to imagine it. 

If you want to see a flick shot in real time that allures you more and has a true reason for being, then check out 2001's Tape as opposed to Confession. And if you want to view a pic that's roughly shot in one setting where the violence stings better, than Reservoir Dogs is more the go-to. Overall, Confession is a mixed divulgence. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, February 5, 2022

The Requin 2022 * * 1/2 Stars


Do we need another shark movie? Apparently Saban Films thinks so. That was their mindset when distributing 2022's The Requin. "Requin" is far from the worst shark endeavor and its hook is kind of original (no pun intended). A married couple purchases a bungalow only to have it drift out to sea by a hurricane. In the middle of nowhere with said bungalow almost destroyed, the spouses have to survive without food and water. Oh and there's toothed sharks looming and salivating.

The Requin stars Alicia Silverstone and James Tupper. They play helpmates Jaelyn and Kyle. It's a two-man/woman show and these two couldn't be more opposite in how they deal with turmoil. Tupper's Kyle has a heart rate that probably never reached sixty. He's one comatose bloke. Silverstone on the other hand, overacts to the point of method. Her screaming voice and voice in general, have many octaves. You might want to turn the volume down on your Flat-Screen or you might garner permanent hearing damage.

"Requin" is helmed by Vietnamese-born Le-Van Kiet. Le-Van's direction is standard as he ops for less gore and more distanced shots of the shark attacks. He fashions The Requin as a sort of 3 act play. The first act establishes the spousal characters one of which had a miscarriage and can't function normally. The second act involves the couple's vacation home being flooded by a storm thereby sending them out to sea (see first paragraph). The third act is well, you guessed it. The sharks don't look fake and that's a good thing. They come in when "Requin's" running time has about thirty minutes left (Kiet is no Hitchcock/Spielbergian clone but he gives it his best shot).

The Requin's opening credit sequence is probably its best asset. There's a sense of foreboding, a sense of anticipation, and the musical score is pretty darn good. Alas, "Requin's" great white premise never quite takes off from there. It's still another shark flick that does its darnedest to bleed into the genre. It's mutated with shards of The Shallows, Open Water, and All Is Lost (yes All Is Lost had selachian fishes too).

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Senior Moment 2021 * 1/2 Stars


A senior moment is defined as a temporary mental lapse. 2021's Senior Moment is mentally incapacitated. Released four years after it was made (ouch), the film's rub involves a 90-year-old, former NASA test pilot who loses his drivers license from drag racing (I'm not kidding). He tries to get said license back and ends up pursuing a pleasant woman who runs a bakery. William Shatner stars and he "boldly goes where no man has gone before", bad movie frontier. 

So yeah, Senior Moment is a rom-com with implausible romance, a slipshod plot, and almost cringe-y comedy. It's also on autopilot (no pun intended). Shatner plays Victor Martin and the only reason why I know his character is NASA-related is because I got that off the film's wiki page (oops).

Shatner seems to be caught up in modern day Clint Eastwood territory here. I mean we get it. The dude is old and crusty and well, either get him a walker or help him retire from the movie biz. The Priceline commercials are a much better gig for good old Captain Kirk. 

Senior Moment is helmed by Belgium-born Giorgio Serafini. His direction is sloppy and altering as he establishes Victor's account only to have Vic wander aimlessly through the pic like an old hound who runs out of breath. Serafini's setting is of course Palm Springs, CA (why wouldn't it be?). Yeah the Springs looks good but Giorgio's got a real hard-on for the city and its mores. Senior Moment begs the question of do we really need another version of 2017's Just Getting Started? I didn't think so. 

Familiar faces show up in Senior Moment. We're talking estranged actors Christopher Lloyd, Jean Smart, Esai Morales, and Martin Sheen's brother ("Hollywood" Joe Estevez). And I guess in Palm Springs only two cop personas exist (who knew). Everyone looks like they're having a good time and you know they're collecting a paycheck. I as the viewer didn't share the same sentiment. I came into this flick wanting to be entertained and not subjected to the Showgirls of the AARP. Crash "moment". 

Written by Jesse Burleson